Downtown Tucsonan - February 2009 - (Page 14)
Arts By Dolly Spalding ppearing now through april 11, Etherton Gallery presents Translations. this art exhibit, says gallery owner terry Etherton in the accompanying catalog, “takes three of the finest observers and interpreters of our time as they explore the body as both medium and message and translate for us our world with its pockmarked peaks and valleys, occasionally incised with a dry humor that rumbles under outstanding draftsmanship.” trek up the steep, 27 riser staircase to the Etherton Gallery (above Barrio Food & drink), and what you’ll find is the antithesis of the typical rendition of the “body”: those smooth-skinned, perfectly formed, unrealistic forms touted by disparate public purveyors such as Playboy, Cosmo, Victoria’s Secret, and calvin Klein billboards, not to mention art books and museums. contributing artists alice Leora Briggs, Bailey doogan and chris Rush have created images that insinuate themselves into the mind’s eye, there to indelibly reside, forever altering ones’ notion of what a portrait can or even should be. Here are visages and bodies thrust into the glaring light of under-the-microscope truth telling – nothing is hidden, all is unflinchingly revealed. take Bailey doogan’s self-portraits, for starters. Most of them are presented, against convention, in profile, and express her recent state of mind. Reeling from physical ailments and psychological angst, doogan says that she was emerging from self-imposed exile, but had lost, she thought, the ability to connect socially. one day, she started manipulating her face in the bathroom mirror – pushing and pulling her skin to smile, to frown, to force expressions with her hands into a semblance of normalcy. Realizing the significance of how these gestures made her “want to make art again,” she created a photographic record of her experiments in what might be called sign language – or even double sign language, since eyes and hands are among the most expressive channels of human-to-human communication — body language at its most direct. doogan’s oversized black and white charcoal drawings convey unavoidable suffering and also a sort of weary triumph. we can sense, as she puts it, “the life under the skin – the bones, the blood vessels, the underlying structure . . .” “My painting process is intimate. I feel like I’m crawling over the surface of the body.” Her “Handled” series of self-portraits, some distressed, some impertinent, some whimsical, present layers of translucent paint – tinged with a vibrant green that doesn’t seem at all alien to the living skin portrayed —skin that writhes, protrudes , dimples, and flinches under the fierce and brutal palpation being perpetrated upon it. alice Leora Briggs self-describes her work as embodying the principal of “horror vacui,” a fear of white space. and indeed, barely a square inch of Briggs’s work surface is not subject to her masterful sgraffito technique, meticulously rendering her partly historical, partly journalistic testaments to what she calls “junctures in human history that magnify iniquity, adaptability and heroism” with old world settings executed in exquisite detail. these are juxtaposed with horrifying scenes straight out of today’s newspapers – violent, evocative, heartbreaking in their emotional intensity. currently living near the border crossing at Juarez, Mexico, with its daily atmosphere of fear, murder and kidnapping, Briggs is witness to historical currents that mirror, in macrocosm, man’s inhumanity to man and the unbearable pain of living through these political and national themes. Mesmerized, the viewer’s eye is caught in a claustrophobic surface crawling with light (despite a first impression of opaque darkness), motion, drama and profound storytelling. It’s hypnotic, piercing, arresting, intriguing: What’s going on here? We wonder. Who are these people? Why must they suffer so? a l i c e l e o r a b r i g g s , “d e a t h o f a virgin” (2008), sgrafitto drawing w i t h a c r y l i c , 2 4 ” x 3 6” c h r i s r u s h , “ ye l l ow s u ng l a s s es” ( 2 0 0 6) c o n t é c r a y o n o n p a p e r, 1 8 ” x 2 4 14 downtown tucsonan.february.09
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Downtown Tucsonan - February 2009
Downtown Tucsonan - February 2009
Performing Arts & Film
Downtown Tucsonan - February 2009
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